Evaluating Landscapes.




Figure 1 (Tudor 2014)

Session Chair: Dr. Jane Russell-O’ Connor

Dr. Jane Russell-O’ Connor has a PhD from University of Wolverhampton, UK and has been conducting interdisciplinary research and publishing in landscape history and landscape ecology for over 15 years, primarily in the UK and over the last 10 years in Ireland. She is currently a lecturer in the Department of Architecture at Waterford Institute of Technology and is supervising three PhD students. Jane has 21 years teaching experience and has also worked in nature conservation, managing nature reserves and country parks. She has run one international conference and chaired sessions at a number of national and international conferences.

How to benefit from landscape values-  Rethinking the city region: from scattered urban sprawl to a coherent urban cultural landscape.
Andreas Nütten, Institute of Architecture at the FHNW.

The City has dispersed into the land. Polycentric Agglomerations dominate the contemporary built environment in many regions of Europe. Neither urban nor clearly rural and with ongoing assimilation of economic mechanisms and building standards they are often lacking identifiable spatial qualities. They are lacking specific identity giving orientation and locational value. How can the existing landscape qualities be identified and activated to contribute to a qualification of these peri-urban environments leading to an enhanced spatial unity and a vivid urban cultural landscape rich in contrasts?

The research project «Mehrwert Landschaft» (surplus of landscape values) of the Institute of Architecture at the FHNW (University of applied Sciences of Northwestern Switzerland) in Basel has outlined several aesthetic approaches, which enable new perspectives in urban planning focussing on landscape structures as generic code for transformation.

Our ongoing landscape research is related to practical design work and it is threefold:  1 Analysis of historic cultural (valley-) landscapes in Switzerland and abroad – What makes landscapes unique and creates entities? What are their elements and how do they interact? 2 Exploring the periurban space and getting a better understanding by methods of seeing, identifying, interpreting and visualizing unique spatial structures, phenomenons, elements and atmospheres. 3 Urban and architectural design proposals visualizing and interpreting existing landscape structures and their potentials for transformation – a series of projects and scenarios tests greater landscape concepts, adds architectural detail and makes options arguable.

As a result we have developed a consecutive and transferable set of methods of space-readings, space-interpretations, space-profiles («Raumbild»), strategies and interventions.

Landscape will deliver in many ways the essential structure on the way to resilient city regions – not only on ecological and supply terms, but also on terms of identity of place and social resilience.

Rethinking Historical Urban Landscapes – A Digital Approach.

Sarah Gearty,  Royal Irish Academy.

Rachel Murphy, University College Cork.

The Irish Historic Towns Atlas (IHTA) project was established to record the topographical development of a selection of Irish towns from the earliest times through to c. 1900. It is part of a wider European scheme governed by the International Commission for the History of Towns that aims at encouraging comparative urban studies. To date 28 atlases have been published in the Irish scheme, each of which includes an essay about the development of the town, a gazetteer of topographical information, maps and historical views of the town. The project draws on a variety of disciplines, mainly geography, history and archaeology. The atlases are used by a wide range of individuals, including architects and planners, when evaluating urban landscapes.

The IHTA has been producing printed atlases and related publications on Irish towns and cities since 1986. In this paper, we will discuss the project and the ways in which it may be used to inform a cultural and social understanding of the urban landscape over time. We will then consider the IHTA’s rationale for combining traditional and new technological approaches in the presentation of urban landscapes, outlining some of the methods that have been taken to create and disseminate the material digitally. There follows a discussion of some of the benefits and challenges of what has been termed ‘the digital turn’ and how it may open up new opportunities for working with the information included within the atlases.

Understanding landscape. Thinking about deep mapping, spatial narratives,  the European Landscape Convention and Ireland’s National Landscape Strategy.
Sophia Meeres, University College Dublin.
As Ingold (1993) argued, dwelling in the landscape is a product and process of living in, working in and acting in the landscape. This paper reflects on the ways that artists, authors and ordinary people describe various landscapes, thus illustrating that each one is different from another. It embraces the idea of landscape as an intricate multidimensional puzzle only partially described by Swanwick (2002) and Tudor (2014) in their respective ‘What is Landscape’ wheel diagrams.
Acknowledging the value of approaches in which the “physical, surficial and infrastructural features” of landscapes are surveyed, characterized and mapped by “…precise measurement, Euclidean geometry, spatial primitives, topology, characterized entities, fields and objects and appropriate symbolism…” combined to “portray ‘accurate’ representations of reality” (Bodenhammer et al., 2015) this
paper reflects on the landscape palimpsest and the chronotope, and considers the types of maps it takes to represent the manifold experiences of the multidimensional landscape.
The paper briefly traces connections  between a biographical approach to understanding specific landscapes (more fully described in my contribution to the conference Landscape and Imagination in 2014), a long-term site-specific collaborative project with UCD students, that links directly to my teaching and research interests (described in a contribution to the 2016 Place and Praxis conference in Galway) and the future representation of Irelands landscapes in an ambitious collaborative, multidisciplinary cartography project prompted by desires to understand, influence, record and manage change. Drawing on these experiences, and others, the paper proposes a non-hierarchial, multi-disciplinary,  multi-faceted, multi-vocal and determinedly open-ended approach to landscape characterization.
Beauty is in the ear of the beholder – challenging the primacy of visual aesthetics in protected landscapes.
Sally Thomas.

National policy for the protection of landscape in the UK reflects a visually based system of assessment which is rooted in eighteenth century artistic tastes for the picturesque. Analysis of recognised processes of landscape assessment shows that a more multi-sensory approach to aesthetic appreciation is discouraged, and the perceptions of local people are afforded minimal legitimacy by public authorities and professional assessors. In line with the more multi-sensory and participatory approach to aesthetic appreciation in some disciplines, and the European Landscape Convention definition of landscape, this research explored the extent to which UK policy acknowledges the sensory aspects of landscape which are valued by people. Analysis of the policy narratives which justify protection of landscapes in Scotland and England revealed the application of a narrow and primarily visual interpretation of perception. Case studies with local people in protected landscapes considered individual perceptions of landscape and focused on sound as a means to articulate non-visual relationships with landscape. These studies revealed that local people have multi-dimensional sensory relationships with landscape which are not fully represented in formal landscape assessments. The research identified a number of risks to the current system of statutory landscape protection through the continued reluctance by public authorities to recognise the validity of multi-sensory perception and the role of individuals in contributing to landscape assessment. Participatory methods used in the case studies are presented which could be refined too enable better integration of individual non-visual sensory perceptions into landscape assessment.

This abstract refers to original research undertaken while the author was studying for a Masters in Environment, Culture and Society at the University of Edinburgh, and does not reflect the views of the Scottish Government.